University of Portland students plan protest against Scalia

Fr. Paul Scalia, son of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, criticized for LGBTQ views

By Hannah Sievert | September 19, 2018 1:25pm

Fr. Paul Scalia | Photo courtesy of 

Editors note: This story has been updated to include a statement from the University's Office of Public Affairs. 

The Associated Students of University of Portland (ASUP) is organizing a silent demonstration outside the Chapel of Christ the Teacher tonight at 6:15 to protest this year’s Red Mass speaker, Fr. Paul Scalia, who has been involved in a group criticized for being anti-LGBTQ. He has also written that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”

Scalia, who is the son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, has served on the board of directors of Courage, a group whose website describes it as “a group of Catholics who experience same sex attractions and who are committed to helping one another to live chaste lives marked by prayer, fellowship and support.” 

Wednesday morning, ASUP issued a news release announcing the protest and urging others to join.

“As an organization that represents the welfare of the student body, we believe and affirm that every student brings a unique identity to our community that should be honored and embraced,” the press release said. “We, as the Associated Students of the University of Portland, do not agree with the decision to select Fr. Paul Scalia as the speaker for this event.” 

ASUP Vice-President Michael Gallagher, who is openly gay, said he is personally familiar with Courage and said that Scalia’s appearance on campus hits close to home. 

“I think it is super important that people recognize this isn’t a club putting on an event. This is the administration that specifically chose this speaker to represent their values,” Gallagher said. “These values, as a whole, do not represent how most students feel and think.”

ASUP president Sitara Nath and Gallagher ran on a platform focused on diversity and inclusion. This is the first time in recent years that ASUP has organized any kind of public protest. 

“Our strategy was to mobilize all of the student leaders who have influence on campus and all of the professors and prominent members of the community,” Nath said.

Students in the ASUP office made ribbons for tonight's protest.
by Hannah Sievert / The Beacon

The Beacon reached out to Father Poorman Wednesday morning for comment on the protest and Scalia’s appearance. Poorman’s assistant said he would be in meetings with the Board of Regents all day and was not available. 

Shortly after 4 p.m., the University's new Office of Public Affairs issued this statement:

"To the UP Community,

Each year the Red Mass Planning Committee, comprised of members of Portland’s legal community, selects a speaker to offer remarks on topics related to the intersection of law and faith at the annual Red Mass and Lecture, which is hosted by the Garaventa Center. Over the years, speakers have offered a range of topics and perspectives.

We understand and respect that some members of the UP community object to the appearance of Rev. Paul Scalia at the Red Mass lecture being held tonight. 

The University of Portland’s core values include fostering an environment that respects the differences and opinions of every student, faculty, and staff member. We embrace all members of our UP community, regardless of sexual orientation.

As a place of higher learning, the University of Portland values free inquiry and academic discourse. We believe it is important to create an environment in which everyone in our community is able to exchange diverse ideas and viewpoints, question without fear of disrespect or discrimination, and respond in constructive and peaceful ways.

We appreciate ASUP’s goal to engage our community in important discussions and ask that any protest be peaceful and respectful of others.

Office of Public Affairs"

The Red Mass, sponsored by the Garaventa Center, is followed by a dinner, where Scalia will give a lecture titled “In Fairness to the Pharisees: The Law, Laws, and Lawlessness.” The purpose of the Mass, according to UP’s website, is to invoke “gifts of the Holy Spirit - wisdom, understanding, counsel and fortitude - upon the members of the legal profession.”

Lawyers and judges from throughout the Portland area are invited to the fundraising event, whether or not they are Catholic. The priests wear red vestments to symbolize the Holy Spirit and to match the “scarlet robes that were traditionally worn by judges.” The first Red Mass was celebrated in 1245 in Paris.